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Separating sadness from guilt

Recent media interviews I have been involved in have been focusing on the increasingly complex interventions that are carried out at all levels of veterinary practice and the inevitable greater associated costs.

Recent media interviews I have been involved in have been focusing on the increasingly complex interventions that are carried out at all levels of veterinary practice and the inevitable greater associated costs. 

During these discussions I am usually asked whether euthanasia is still a reasonable and appropriate option for cases where cost or poor quality of life outcomes are significant factors. My answer is an emphatic yes.

This is discussed in my recent interview with BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester.

Listen to Robin talk further about this on BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester

Euthanasia

In general practice I am not ashamed to say you become a euthanasia specialist or you fail. Broaching the option of euthanasia and guiding clients through a rational and ethical decision making process can be the hardest part of veterinary practice but if you develop your own thinking so that you can do this compassionately and competently it can be the most satisfying.

When I perform euthanasia I need to feel comfortable with my decision making and as far as possible, if I am comfortable I should be able to bring the owner to a shared sense of reconciliation.

I often see animals in distress and owners putting on a brave face. When I have worked through the euthanasia process the animal is at peace and the owner is distressed. I see this transference as very symbolic, we take a problem in the form of injury or disease that the animal cannot overcome and convert it into grief that the owner can, with time, conquer.

I made a point recently that seems to have resonated with some people. I said that, in helping people deal with euthanasia decisions I spend a great deal of time trying to get people to separate sadness from guilt. When we lose a treasured companion it is right that we should feel a deep sadness but if we have come to an active decision to put an end to a life through a welfare oriented decision process we should not feel guilt.

Guidance for vets and pet owners

For further information on this subject, have a look at the BVA guidance for vets:

AWF has also produced a guide for pet owners:  Saying goodbye - the ultimate kindness

All the best,

Robin

 

Robin Hargreaves Written by Robin Hargreaves
BVA President from September 2013 to September 2014

Robin is a director and small animal practitioner at Stanley House Veterinary Surgery in Lancashire. 

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